Despite occasional frustration and my anger at the legacy of sex discriminatory salaries exposed by our DCMS Select Committee recently, I value the BBC enormously. But I’m increasingly worried about its future because of the Government’s cuts to its funding. In the age of disinformation and fake news, the principles and ethics of public service broadcasting become ever more important. That’s why I have signed a Parliamentary motion calling on the Government to properly fund, the BBC, S4C and the free TV licence fees for the over-75s.
One example of death by a thousand cuts is the Government’s withdrawal of funding for BBC World Service, the world’s largest and best known international broadcaster, providing content in 40 languages. The Tories have now pulled the same trick with funding TV licences for people over the age of 75 and S4C, services that used to be funded by general taxation that are now to be funded by the licence fee. This means more services are competing for a slice of a smaller pie.
The BBC is consulting on restricting the free TV licence either to people over 80 or means testing it because it simply cannot afford to absorb the cost of free licences to over 75’s passed onto it by the Government. The changes to how S4C will be funded from 2023 will place an even greater strain on the sustainability of the channel.
You can find the full text of the motion below;
That this House notes that currently 8 per cent of the budget for the Welsh-language channel S4C comes from the licence fee, but that from 2023 the broadcaster will be dependent on the licence fee settlement; further notes that the BBC has an important public service remit, and that S4C plays a very important role in the culture and media landscape in Wales; is therefore seriously concerned about the effect of declining real-terms funding in licence fee revenue, along with the transfer of additional costs to the BBC, which already amounts to a reduction of approximately 20 per cent in resources spent on services to licence fee payers since the start of the decade; believes that given this situation the BBC cannot now afford to pay the £745 million it would cost to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s by 2021/22 without this having a significantly detrimental impact on the range and equality of services; agrees with the National Union of Journalists and the Federation of Entertainment Unions that the BBC should rule out subsiding television licences for the over-75s; and believes that the Government should provide the necessary funding for this concession from general taxation instead.